After a valiant effort versus Minnesota, the Oklahoma City Thunder continue their brutal opening stretch by facing the Denver Nuggets. Thunder rookie Jalen Williams is out due to an eye injury, while Jamal Murray returns for the Nuggets after resting yesterday.
Oklahoma City covered 61.5% of the time last season, which was the second highest percentage. They covered against Minnesota, but will they continue to do so versus Denver? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineups are found below.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets Betting Odds
The line has jumped from -7.5 to -8.5 Nuggets with their moneyline being offered around -350. Meanwhile, the Thunder’s moneyline can be found at +300, which means they must win at least 26% of the time to be profitable. The 226 over under line is slightly on the larger side for Saturday games.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets Prediction
Although I would love nothing more than to spew my Thunder propaganda, I am backing the Nuggets here at -7.5 (I got them early).
Oklahoma City’s interior defense is porous, especially with Pokusevski starting. Rudy Gobert, who is not known as a scorer, shredded them for 23 points and 16 rebounds on 10/15 shooting. The Thunder must now face reigning 2x MVP Nikola Jokic, who excels on the block as a scorer and playmaker. Jokic can back down Pokusevski, Muscala, or Robinson-Earl with ease, and his hook shots will seem like an infinite loop. If the Thunder send any semblance of help, Jokic immediately kicks it out to fantastic three-point shooters in Murray, Caldwell-Pope, and Porter Jr. The double team may not even affect Jokic because he towers over the other Thunder starters.
Denver also holds a significant advantage in three-point shooting. Oklahoma City was 30th last season at 32.3 3PT%, and they shot 31.1 3PT% versus Minnesota. Denver, meanwhile, had a 35.3 3PT% last season and projects to improve upon that number this year. Underdogs generally need to execute high variance plays to prevail, but I expect Denver to dominate the three-point shooting matchup because of the superior personnel in this department.
Defensively, the Nuggets possess excellent options to throw at Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, and Dort. Free agent additions Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and Bruce Brown are sticky perimeter defenders with lengthy wingspans. They can bother that trio to a certain extent and at the very least force contested shots. And while Gilgeous-Alexander is arguably the best driver in the NBA, Jokic’s formidable rim protection awaits him at the end of the road. The Thunder do possess exceptional passing at nearly every position, but their wildly inconsistent shooting and Denver’s length may cap the fruits of this skill.
Oklahoma City’s bench can cause extensive damage, as Tre Mann is a dangerous on or off-ball scorer and Bazley flashes elite isolation potential from time to time. Unfortunately, Denver’s bench also wreaks havoc. Bones Hyland is primed to take a drastic leap forward this season, Christian Braun adds 3&D value, and Bruce Brown provides a little of everything.
Overall, I see the Thunder keeping it relatively close until Denver eventually pulls away and prevails by 9-11 points. The center position is such a mismatch that it’s difficult to envision Oklahoma City overcoming it. Plus, Denver has adequate defenders to mark the Thunder’s best offensive options. Add in home court and a significant three-point shooting advantage, and Denver covering is the best bet.
- Thunder are 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings
- Under is 3-0-1 in the last 4 meetings
Will Kenrich display his defensive utility? Which sixth man provides instant offense? Check out key matchups below.
Michael Porter Jr vs. Kenrich Williams & Luguentz Dort
Although the offense runs through Jokic, Porter Jr is a vital contributor. He missed the vast majority of last season, but Porter Jr produced 19 PPG on a 54/44/79 shooting split during the 2020/21 season. At 6’10”, the small forward’s shot is remarkably difficult to bother. He excels as a catch and shoot option, but Porter Jr can handle the ball and also score off the dribble. Across two games this season, he’s averaging 16 PPG on an extraordinary 50/50/75 shooting split. Overall, Porter Jr provides balance to this Jokic-led offense due to his ability to consistently create his own shot.
However, Porter Jr must contend with Lu Dort and “Kenny Hustle”, who is rising to near lockdown level status on the wing. Kenrich is one of the most versatile defenders in terms of the player archetypes he defends. Dort, on the other hand, already holds a reasonable claim as an elite perimeter defender. If Kenrich and Dort can hound Porter Jr and contain him to solely spot up shooting, then Oklahoma City’s offense stands a much greater chance of somewhat keeping pace with Denver’s offense.
Tre Mann vs. Bones Hyland
Mann and Hyland are both microwave scorers who will contend for 6MOY this season. Defense and consistent efficiency remain foreign to these players, but their respective teams simply require them to score. Mann holds the three-point shooting advantage, yet Hyland is the superior playmaker and driver. The sixth man who wins this battle will provide a huge advantage, and I see this matchup playing a decisive role in terms of which team covers the spread.
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— NBA (@NBA) October 22, 2022
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineups
Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries: Chet Holmgren (O), Jalen Williams (O)
Denver Nuggets Injuries: Jamal Murray (P), Collin Gillespie (O)